Immersion Question

Hi Friends / Listeners / Readers ~

After years of brainstorming, I do believe the time has come for a Body Awake style immersive retreat. It’ll be study, interaction, movement, touch and inquiry. 3 or 4 days, this summer. Open to anyone who resonates with the show’s approach.

Does this interest you? If so, I’d love your input with this question: Which of the 3 locations would be best for you?

 

a) a studio space in Bellingham (90 min north of Seattle, does have its own airport)

b) a sweet little movement studio about a half hour outside Bellingham, well in the woods; people could camp there

c) Seattle

 

Each has its pro and con list for participants, especially anyone who’d fly in. I’d love your personal take on what’s most appealing.

And for those interested, stay tuned on the show. Write me back anytime, I’ll read and respond if called for, even if it takes me a week or two. Thanks! Love, LB

Three New Poems

Tres poemas nuevos, escribía en México. (Estoy aquí para vacaciones. It’s been a lovely mid-winter shift.) Hope these find you well, and maybe one of them sparks a little something for you, in you.

 

 1 — 

Awareness the soil

Attention the sun

Kindness the rain

The truth of our

    interconnectedness

    the air


Behold! Life grows!

 

 

2 —

When you have a deep question,

one that sears your heart

with its why-ness,


what you really want

is relief from the burning.

And yet, every effort


to extinguish it is a

turning away. Why do this,

when you don’t even know:


what is it?

 

 

 3 —

I wasted

So much stress in

So many hours of

So much pretending I

Knew the answer and

Knew where it was going and

Knew what was what

For everyone.

¡What a chore!

What a sad misunderstanding

About power and

About people and

About my own soft,

      Beating

      Receptivity.

 

💜  LB

Imbolc Updates

(Imbolc is an early spring celtic holiday.)

Hi Fellow Body Awake ‘rs ~

Today’s email is a little catch up for those interested which, for me, is coming on the end of a long, deep, dark winter. So, to spring’s earliest blooming on the horizon (I know how cold it is, yes:)) …


==== Projects and Teaching ====

- a new class in Bellingham starting next month: "Strength, Mobility and Body Awareness." This class has been really powerful for a lot of people (when I used to teach it in Montana). Details for first class, which'll be free, here.

- an involved, cumulative project with Brooke Thomas (of Liberated Body, and Bliss + Grit) that will culminate in a course you can do anywhere. It's been quite fun to create so far. I will proudly let you know when it's ready 

- Michael Hamm will be co-teaching what's latest and freshest for us — we're in planning stages now — in a four-day workshop in Leavenworth (in a really awesome lodge): Aug 28 - Sep 1. Last year this workshop sold out months in advance; I'll definitely let you know when registration is open.

==== Listening ====

I dig how much at least some of y'all appreciate knowing what I tune into. (I get this feedback.)

Largely, this winter, the answer was mostly: silence. I took a huge break from music with lyrics, podcasts, studying, and sat with a lot of candlelight and silence. (And what a remarkable privilege that is to have access to that material peace.)

And now, in spring's earliest stirrings in my body, I am tuning in a bit more again to words outside my own heart, most notably:

bliss and grit's latest episodes on turning towards and away from psychological pain

- the podcast scene on radio; right now I'm on their first season on seeing white

- music, again; I most notably had fun putting this playlist together on spotify for the dance I facilitated in seattle last week

==== Reading / Studying ====

I’m having another whole-hearted go at the very complex and dense (for me) Blechschmidt’s The Ontogenic Basis for Human Anatomy. I treat this book like a workout: one hour and then a rest day.

(And a huge thanks to the TBA listener who reached out with a video series on this very book as a reply to the poem I published “heart and spine” — thanks, Kit!)

Also finally diving into Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen’s Basic Neurocellular Patterns. BBC is a master in her field — including lots of embodied anatomy — from which I’ve learned a lot and continue to.

Lastly, a huge book for my heart in the past couple months — that was recommended to me years ago by Martin Keogh but I never got around to reading it until I stumbled upon it in a cabin on New Years Eve — is The Rag and Bone Shop of the Heart: Poems for Men

(And of course, we’re in a wonderful season to revisit Mary Oliver. Godspeed, sensei.)

==== 💛====

And, as I’ve mentioned, a TBA season 3 is brewing and will be with us soon.

Thank you all who write me for your wisdom, your kindness and your curiosity. (Those three go so well together, no? Check and balance style.)

Reply anytime,

LB

Simple

Hi TBA listeners, here’s a bit more of a personal share, which may resonate with you in a useful way. Love, LB

What my heart feels called to share and do is changing so much, has changed so much over the past few years, few months even.

Every time I think I'm turning away from the body, it finds me again, quickly and obviously.

Though every time I move towards complexity, in a certain way, I'm aware that I feel off.

Every time I go in the direction of trying to string everything together in One Grand Unified Theory — which admittedly I love to do and has a certain beauty to it, so I'm not dismissing the grandness of it — I am becoming more aware of it often being a kind of disembodied movement for me, that it's often more about trying to prove something, a "look how clever I can be, idiots," than it is about something more visceral, more heart-centered, more pointed and easily grocked and applied. (In which, much to the horror of a certain aspect of what I know to be me, and much to the great liberation of the rest of it, I am not the center of.)

I'm feeling that hunger so much lately. And it's not simple like dopey, or simple like do this 'til you can figure out the more complex stuff. Simple like simple.

Like "here, friend. Here's something to consider, a way to strengthen and be in your body more, and / or help others do them same, so that we can do our good, necessary work of taking care of each other right now."

RIGHT NOW.

It's urgent. It feels urgent.

Urgency carries a certain presence, no?

And that said, oh man, like Aaron and team reminded us yesterday at a Holistic Resistance workshop I attended, we're in this for the long game.

And, oddly, these are not at all at odds to me. (I think many of us can see this lack of contradiction, but I'll just speak for myself here.)

They're not at odds because they're both about being with reality — which includes a pulled hamstring, the desire to get a handstand, the desire to love and be loved, the pain born of a system of white oppression that we all carry, of racism and the yearning to mend broken ties, of confusion and loss and feeling like a shmuck when all you want to do is not feel like a shmuck, the love of our planet and its trees and oceans, the joy of laughter — the desire to be with What Is.

I feel it. It's getting simpler.

Love, LB

Movement Practice: Isolation

It’s been a few weeks — and apologies, as I have been making these more slowly than the once-a-week schedule I’d said at the outset — but here we are: video three in the movement practice series.

I spend the first few minutes of this one putting these videos in the context of a regular practice, how they’re as much a taste of a particular ingredient as anything else. (And do with that information / take what you will.)

So glad some of you are enjoying and getting something out of these!

Love from the PNW,

LB

ps season three of TBA starting to take shape; stay tuned and I’m so glad you’re here, for real and thank you

Stay or Go?

I reckon one function of a teacher these days is to help you move through the inevitable dips that arise in any practice.

And to help you re-orient, either subtly or drastically, when it’s time for that.

One example is body-centered meditation. Some very sensitive people will experience an increase in anxiety when doing something like a body scan (wherein you’re going head to toe with your awareness, feeling different areas of your body).

^ One line of logic would say “stay with it! that’s your stuff arising and it needs to be met.” 

^ Another might say “nah … let’s find an easier, kinder path for this unfolding than something that fans the flames of an anxiety that’s already been so difficult for you in this life.”

===

Another example is a yoga asana practice in which the practitioner experiences pain in certain poses.

^ “Keep moving through, in this way.”

or

^ “Nope, those poses are not for you right now.”

===

Which is right?

Of course it’s not an easy, one-size-fits-all answer.

My quick gut-heart reaction to this answer is that either could be, and a lot of the question of how to move through this dilemma wisely rests in the teacher.

Or, equally true, a lot rests on the practitioner’s orientation towards the particular teaching. And the teacher can help illuminate what this orientation is. No matter how smart, we are all fish in our own waters.

===

If you’re interested in this topic I highly recommend a recent episode of the podcast Bliss and Grit called “Turn Towards or Turn Away?” (and the couple of episodes preceding this one), which inspired this post.

The Middle Way

Imagine you’re looking at a spectrum, a line representing two extremes.

On one end, you have complete austerity, whatever that means to you. On the other, you have complete indulgence.

Or, perhaps, on one end you have deeply blissful highs, and on the other you have crushing, depressing lows.

It’s tempting, is it not, to think of The Middle Way as a kind of compromise between the two.

“Yeah, have a little chocolate cake, just not too much.”

From the perspective of living in the extremes, the middle way can look like a kind of luke-warm, dad-joke, have-it-both-ways compromise you sigh your way into after you get your first real job.

===

However, I am purporting here and have directly experienced: that’s not all it is.

And in fact that’s only the most surface layer, the what it looks like, in the same way that a plastic rose can kind of look like a rose, but really they are nothing alike.

Back to our initial image of the spectrum, it’s as if from one perspective yes, this middle way is, indeed, in the middle of two points.

But then the perspective shifts, and this third point is actually on another plane altogether.

From this new perspective, it’s not a “middle point” at all. It is something else entirely.

===

There’s a depth there that you cannot fathom. (I can’t either.)

There’s a holding of opposites — where either/or breaks down, not for lack of intellect but for sudden uselessness of the map of logic itself — that you cannot fathom.

===

So, how to find it, to get to know this depth?

For lack of any more detail, try this one on: Follow, listen to, your heart is step one. Step two is vital: now act.

Whatever that heart-wisdom says “do,” do that. That thing stirring in your guts that you know calls you, perhaps terrifyingly so: that. It’s secret work, and it’s extremely, and only, personal to you.

===

LB

===
+++
===

ps if you’ve been a reader of mine for a long time, you may recognize this post from my previous blog at dynamic alignment bodywork page. I’ll be having a look through some of my favorites there and re-posting here over the next little while, along with new content as it arises. (If you’re an old reader and you have any favorites from that site, please shoot me a line and let me know! I like hearing what especially resonates with people. Thanks.)

4 Phases of a Still-Shape Practice

For your consideration: 4 phases of a still-shape practice.

Phase 1: the shape matters.

> You use some amount of will to get into a particular shape and stay there.

(Language: muscle, fascia.)


Phase 2: the route you take to get into the shape matters.

> Each asana begins the moment you begin moving in its direction. There are 10,000 ways to get into forward fold, and each will yield a different forward fold.

(Language: fluids.)


Phase 3: the options you have along the way, and the options you have within the shape itself, matter.

> You have options, can move this way or that along the way to, and once in, a shape, adapting to a moment-by-moment reality changing in front of and within you.

(Language: nervous system.)


Phase 4: who you are, and the way you are being that, matters.

You’re aware that you are not just a person on a mat making a shape and breathing some way. You affect and are affected by any and everything else.

(Language: heart / electrical (this one I’m least sure of, but there's some really wonderful evidence describing the body’s electromagnetic field, of which the heart is a kind of centerpiece, creating and receiving these impulses)).

Heart and Spine

“Heart and Spine”
(aka Ode to the Mediastinum)


Heart says, “soften”

Spine says, “stand up”

Heart says, “I am full

of aching waters”

Spine says, “I am tired”

Heart says, “there

is my mother
about to leave”

Spine says, “center

here, with me”

Heart says, “I long for you”

Spine says, “I am unwhole,

and unwell,
without you”

And a wellspring,

emergent web of fascia,

blood and nerves, deep

in the chest and belly,

spanning an inner space,

says, “good thing

you were never
really separate.”


— LB

Body Attitude

That’s the thing we’re getting at with an idea like “relax” or “be careful” or even “be in your power” or anything like that.

And the funny thing about it, that it’s a predisposition we’re talking about, is that it’s a really hard thing to explain well.

Because if we’re talking about shifting a predisposition, then it’s not really about what the predisposition does. It’s about what it is.

And what, exactly, is a predisposition if not something that is but doesn't really exist until something manifest points to its existence by moving along its wood grain? Think about the wind in a silent movie: you'd have no idea unless you saw a leaf or a sailboat.

(This, by the way, is why I like the words “body attitude,” as an attitude is something that affects everything one does. Right? It’s plain as day. And it’s also not anything you can point to in particular; you can only point to how the attitude expresses.)

Those expressions can be tinkered with pretty easily: do this or don’t do that. It’s the attitude that’s much deeper waters.

So why this big build up? One way to build an embodied practice of any sorts is around this nebulous little concept — or really around the actuality of its lived experience in you — and it’s an easy thing to gloss over.

(It’s also an easy thing to get stuck in, so feel more than free to disregard all of this.)

If your mind feels a little hazy reading this, if you’re not sure you’re fully grocking it: great. (Seriously.)

Suggestion from here: drop this concept entirely — nothing else to ruminate on — and if it finds you later today or later this week, have a dance, in your body: the cells of the skin of these words dancing with the cells, bacteria and all, we call [insert your name here].

Awareness (as) Medicine

I worked with three very different clients yesterday, with three very different body dilemmas they wanted resolved.

 

Together, we worked through three different treatment plans, though they all had a common root: bringing awareness somewhere awareness had not been.

(Or, a little more trickily but I think more accurately stated: connecting the presence of “I am aware that I am here, now” with the awareness that already inhabits those tissues ... like an eddy released into the stream, nothing ultimately changes and yet, radically, one’s whole self-construct can change in a very real, physical way, including pain going away, strength returning, etc.)

In one session, the language of the awareness-consciousness thing (see above) was via the dense myofascia. “You’ve been in a trance this way,” I offered with my hands. “Let’s see what’s over here, a whole other aspect of who you are.”

The myofascia, really the whole body, said “yes, ah ... I’d just forgotten.” And it was done. (For now.)


In another session, the entry point / language was the hum of internal fluids — lymph, blood, the whole gamut of interstitial communication — and thin fascial barriers of the dura of the brain and spine, the peritoneum of the guts.

We shone a spotlight, again through bodywork, though this a much lighter, more “subtle” touch. (Subtle in quotes because it’s only subtle using certain, more common roadmaps of experience.)


Another session was a bit of what’s above, and also some connection to the frontal cortex experience of “I am aware that I am aware” ... which can sound like a college dorm room after a big bong rip statement, but is also pointedly true, and deep.

Awareness through “yes, I am here and I am aware of my experience (of this sensation).”


Awareness transforms ... and yes, I think it’s accurate to say, at least to propose, that it’s  only awareness that transforms, so long as we don’t forget bringing awareness to something can take a huge array of languages. Of course this is not limited to the work I do, or bodywork in general or anything like that.

 

Cheers to all the ways we help each other get by 🙏🏽

Yoga Cues to Have a Second Look At

1. “Engage your core (or glutes) to protect your lower back.”

This is another thing that’s often said in a yoga class as a sort of absolute truth that I think is, at its very best, a helpful relative truth, a guide towards something, not a something unto itself.

In this case, it begs the question, for me, protect from what? (Again, I get how it can be a helpful cue. I also think it can easily lead towards a sort of alignment / tone / thinking rigidity that has lots of people trying to set up a home in the middle of a river. It doesn’t work that way; you’ll be disappointed every time.)

Here’s my whole list, when I sat down and jotted the ones that came to mind:

2. “Put your shoulders on your back.” (Or “rounding your shoulders is bad.”)

3. “Hip openers are hard on the knees.”

4. The thinking that if you have tender knees, that’s just the way it is and you should keep doing the same poses but just put padding under your knees. I’m not saying endure unnecessary pain, I’m saying let’s look at that pain with the same kind of rigor that we look at, say, tight hamstrings. Something can likely be done, but it’ll feel like a backwards step to the One Used to Doing Poses a Certain Way.

( ^ same goes for always using knee pads in Contact Improv.)

5. The whole squeezed butt, retracted scapulae, supinated forearms in tadasana (mountain pose) thing. I totally don’t get it. (Willing to learn if someone has a compelling case!) But I think, man, if we’re emulating a mountain here, mountains sure don’t have to work so hard to be mountains. They stand with regality and ease.

6. The cue “start to ______ (listen to your breath, feel your body, whatever).” The teacher has no idea if you’re already doing this or not. So maybe it’s a start, maybe it’s a continuation.


7. And I wrote a whole thing about this one a week ago: “putting your knee past your ankle is bad for your knee.” (Maybe in some cases, but definitely not an absolute truth.)

Okay friends, there’s all that. If one or more of these sparks something for you: wonderful! If you want to share an idea back with me on one or more of these, for real, please do.

I am always learning, modifying what I’m thinking, and overall trying to be less of a grump-ass in my own mind in the back of a class and just enjoy what’s being presented!

I think getting this list out helps me with that ;) Love, LB

A 27-Min Super Gentle Movement Practice

This is 27 min movement practice prob best suited for afternoon or early evening.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NYG_u5H_sUQ

It recently, and somewhat embarrassingly, dawned on me that I really don’t teach the stuff I most practice.

It’s a kind of work that feels super close to my heart.

But I haven’t really shared this kind of work in classes because I had fear that everyone would find it too vague, too weird, not enough yang, too boring. (And that’s probably mostly true; I would be amazed if even 1 out of 20 people resonated a lot with this kind of thing.)

But truth is, I don’t know if it’s a service to others because I haven’t really shared it.

So! Here’s this, one afternoon practice.

I’m going to be creating one of these a week for at least a bit, so stayed tuned if you’re into this sort of thing 💜

A Memory of Two Irreconcilable Truths

I remember vividly being a child, in my grade school years, and running against what appeared then as an essential dilemma. I was looking at two apparent opposites; one of them I felt to be true, and the other I knew to be true.

What I knew to be true, at least in a face value sort of way, was that some things were more enjoyable than others. Some people suffered more than others. Some days were better than others.

What I felt to be true was that somehow this all made deep sense and the “winning” and “losing” feel of life wasn’t actually that. It felt like there was a way of seeing that wasn't just like "yeah, it's too bad that bad stuff happens, but good thing it passes, huh?"

I felt in my guts that Something knew those unpleasant experiences as it Self as much as the most wondrous ones.

This "way of seeing" — if we want to call it that — was somehow both a total mystery I couldn’t name and had zero evidence for. It was also, even more mysteriously, already happening — if it existed then it never didn't exist — even though I couldn't name at all how that was true.

And all of that seemed in a most direct conflict with my actual experience that some things were more enjoyable than others.

These two [whatevers] were to me immediately, and obviously, irreconcilable.

*

If there’s some way it’s all an expression of the divine (not at all the language I would’ve had in my head at that age; I just had the feeling then, without language) and if, as indeed appeared true, there is suffering … Then what. Then what? I felt a need to know but also knew there was no doorway into this knowledge. Like it was either plain as day or might as well not exist. Another paradox in my young heart.

*

This memory revisited me recently. Upon diving deeply into a great sadness whereupon, after the tremors have moved through (for now), I feel so deeply changed, and also so deeply normal and like nothing has changed.

Whatever This is, it is nothing new. There is no glitter, there’s not even a thumbtack added to what’s always been plain as day, even to my very young eyes. I have changed a total of zero, using whatever metric of measurement. Nothing has changed.

And yet something is radically different.

*

If I could go back to that little boy with that Impossible Question in His Heart, I’d probably give him a huge hug. That might be it.

When I’m with him (in a sort of vivid, embodied remembering), he doesn’t even have any particular question — I remember so well how he knows words are going to be like throwing pebbles at the moon: maybe a decent way to spend an evening, sure, but if we’re talking about the nature of celestial orbit, it’s not the tool to illuminate the topic at hand.

Any word, any concept, even before it’s thought or spoken is already something else.

Interconnectedness / Darkness

Corazones ~

I’m wrapping up season two of The Body Awake with this episode: a mix of retrospect, looking around and some personal sharing from me.

I mention a poem at the end; that’s below.

With love, LB

Download this episode direct here.

💛

Yellow Paint

💛

When I heard that Van Gough
Drank yellow paint in hopes that
It would brighten his spirits,

I cried and cried, envisioning
Him trying
Anything that might help. 

That desperate sadness. 
They say it goes away but
Sometimes it doesn’t. 

I’ve nearly lost my mind, too, with it,
As I searched but could not find a truth
To undo that truth.

This morning, I am somewhere new,
Writing this poem, hearing 
The sharp cry of the geese

And wondering how and when lightness
Returns, if it is not guaranteed, and why,
When it does, it’s as if it never left, and

What life lives Van Gough now,
And what lives on, his
Deep sadness?

— LB

Ep 43 live

New episode up with Don Hanlon Johnson, who is both

a) interested in exactly where my heart is right now — the intersection of the body, politics and social and environmental care

and

b) someone who's been doing this work for a long, long time.

We covered tons of ground; dive in when you're ready : http://thebodyawake.com/dhj

 🍁 Howdy from the cave (I’ve not been online much)! Hope you’re well, dear listener. 

When Subtle Isn’t Subtle

It’s easy to describe small shifts in a movement as “subtle.” As in, a teeny little tilt of your pelvis this way or that. 

But let’s remember: what’s the point of these shifts unless they’re producing a notable shift in something? That something may be a felt experience; it may be the student just needs to trust the teacher that the shift is the way to go.

Either way, the point isn’t subtlety; it’s the obvious. 

Consider assessing if milk is still okay or if it’s spoiled. It may have shifted color, but just a little bit. If you’re only using your eyes, you’ll describe the shift from fresh to spoiled as subtle.

But if you’re using your nose, it’s obvious. 

Here’s this same thought in a video if you’d prefer:  https://instagram.com/p/BpATvgkBfPK/

What Is "The Body" ?

When we're talking about embodiment, or whatever, what is this "the body" we're talking about?

Because I haven’t found one, and I’ve looked a lot.

I can see the bit of tissue we call an "arm" ... I can feel it, outside and in ... I can close my eyes and feel the sensation there, though there are times when the location of that sensation is seriously in question, or gone altogether.

(Has anyone else experienced that last bit? Like in some ways a felt sensation has a place, a location, but from another perspective it's nowhere in particular. That is to say it's as much everywhere as anywhere. Not in an overwhelming way, just in a way that isn't what I thought it was initially.)

So I can see — and feel, and propriocept and on and on with the variances in types of perception — an arm, an abdomen, thousands of small streams the yogis saw and called "nadis," skin, space outside the skin (or what appears as such, either way an ability to feel what isn't touching me but is close), the experience of a surveillance called "the nervous system" ...

But nowhere have I found a "body."

If I'm sharing about embodiment, you'd think I know what the f it is. But I don't.

My inquiries keep get simpler and simpler.

My best definition right now would have to do something with a *quality of attention.* The body is a word we use to point to a particular way of being, as in: it's *not* being lost in thought; it's something else.

...

I love this, by the way. In case that's not obvious. For me, seeing deeper into the heart of what I'm doing is the ultimate liberation, even as, or perhaps precisely to the degree by which, the ground falls out from beneath my once sturdy (seeming) stance.